The Lake County Prosecutor’s Office represents the State of Ohio in all felony criminal cases set for trial in each of the four Lake County Common Pleas General Division Courts. The Office also provides legal assistance and advice to all Lake County law enforcement agencies, 24 hours a day, and assists these agencies in the preparation of search warrants.
The Appellate Division is responsible for handling all criminal appeals involving felonies decided in the Lake County Courts of Common Pleas. A criminal defendant has 30 days from the date of the trial Court’s sentence to appeal the ruling to the 11th District Court of Appeals.
The 11th District Court of Appeals is located in Warren, Ohio. It handles appeals from Lake, Ashtabula, Geauga, Trumbull and Warren Counties.
Once briefs (documents explaining a legal argument) are filed, cases are generally set for oral argument. A panel of three Judges hears argument from each side. The Court can only consider evidence that was presented at the trial Court. No new testimony is given. In the event a case is reversed, it is remanded back to the trial Court for rehearing and/or re-sentencing.
If the defendant’s appeal is not successful, he or she can ask the Ohio Supreme Court to hear the case. The Ohio Supreme Court only hears cases involving substantial constitutional questions, death penalty cases, or those cases involving matters of great public interest.
In most appellate cases, the Lake County Prosecutor’s Office defends the trial Court’s decision. On occasion, the Prosecutor appeals rulings by the trial court that are adverse to the position of the State of Ohio.
The Appeals Division also handles appeals involving civil cases and child support enforcement cases, however the majority of cases handled by the division are as a result of criminal cases.
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In addition to Aggravated Murder and Murder, there are 5 degrees of felonies, ranging from a Felony of the Fifth Degree, which is the least serious felony charge, up to a Felony of the First Degree, which is the most serious charge short of murder. The potential prison terms for these felonies are as follows:
- F1: 3 to 11 years in prison
- F2: 2 to 8 years in prison
- F3: 9 months to 5 years
- F4: 6 to 18 months incarceration
- F5: 6 to 12 months incarceration
An Aggravated Murder committed under certain circumstances can be punished by a death sentence or it may result in the lesser penalties of a life sentence without possibility of parole or with parole possible after serving 30, 25, or 20 years. Without death penalty specifications, Aggravated Murder may result in a sentence of life without the possibility of parole or with parole possible after serving a period of 30, 25, or 20 years of imprisonment. The possible sentence on a Murder convictions is 15 years to life imprisonment.
Judges must review many factors in rendering a decision to incarcerate an offender. In general, convicted felony offenders may be sentenced to prison or community control, which may include confinement in the local jail followed by other sanctions.
The purpose of the Grand Jury is to hear evidence in criminal cases, and to evaluate the same to determine if probable cause exists to charge an individual with a criminal offense. The Grand Jury hears numerous cases each day, and does not determine the guilt or innocence of the defendants in the cases. There is no judge nor defense attorney involved in the Grand Jury process. If the Grand Jury rules that probable cause exists to charge the individual, then a “True Bill” is signed, and the defendant is formally indicted on the felony charges the Grand Jury recommends. The case then proceeds to trial in the Common Pleas Court to determine the defendant’s guilt or innocense.
The Grand Jury typically meets once a week for a term of three months. If the caseload requires it, additional days are scheduled.
Those citizens who are chosen to serve as Grand Jury members must dedicate themselves to the process, and attendance at all sessions of the Grand Jury is essential. Although it is a considerable time commitment, the vast majority of citizens who serve as Grand Jurors describe their experience as being extremely rewarding.
A Registered Sex Offender is someone who has been ordered by a Judge to register with the Sheriff’s Department in the County where they reside, as a result of being found guilty of a sexually-oriented offense. Any person residing in Lake County who has been adjudicated a sexual offender, must register with the Lake County Sheriff’s Department.
There are several designations included in the Sexual Offender classification, which can range in reporting requirements from 10 years to life.